Defenders of Wildlife Announces Rescue Plan for Mexican Gray Wolves

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 27, 2013) – On the eve of the 15th anniversary of the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves to the American southwest, Defenders of Wildlife called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement a three-point rescue plan to ensure the continued recovery of the species.

The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife:

“In 1998, as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I was privileged to help release the first group of Mexican gray wolves in the Apache National Forest in Arizona. These wolves have come a long way since then, but they face significant threats to their long-term survival.

“Defenders of Wildlife has identified three significant threats that need to be addressed to aid in the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf going forward: lack of new releases and other measures to improve the wolves’ genetic health, lack of an updated Mexican gray wolf recovery plan and the need for the establishment of additional wild populations. 

“To combat these challenges, Defenders is calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement an emergency rescue plan for Mexican gray wolves to assure their long-term survival.

1)      Release more wolves from captivity as the first step in a science-based genetic rescue plan.

2)      Complete the Mexican gray wolf recovery plan, and implement it.

3)      Establish at least two additional populations of Mexican gray wolves in the wild.

“Put simply, we need more wolves in the wild if this species is to survive. This point is not in dispute among wolf biologists, and the Service needs to act now to rectify this situation.

“The 15th anniversary of the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf represents a time for both celebration and action. These wolves have come far in the last 15 years, but they still need a lot of help in order to continue to survive and ultimately thrive in the wild. By expanding their population in the wild and completing specific plans for their recovery, we can help save this icon of the American southwest,” said Clark.

Background:

Population Count and Genetic Diversity: The population count of Mexican gray wolves increased to 75 in 2012, an indication that efforts to coexist with wolves are succeeding.  At the same time, though, Mexican wolves are facing a genetic crisis. All of the Mexican gray wolves in the world today are descended from only seven wolves that began the captive breeding program and there are only three breeding pairs in the wild today, further limiting their genetic diversity.  Such a small gene pool impacts their ability to raise healthy pups, adapt to changing conditions, and ultimately recover throughout their range.

The captive population has been carefully managed to preserve genetic diversity, but in order to overcome their limited genetic heritage, Mexican gray wolves in the wild need to rapidly expand their numbers. There are about 300 Mexican gray wolves in captivity in zoos and breeding centers. Many of these wolves have never bred. By introducing new breeding pairs from captivity, the gene pool can be expanded in the wild and improve the chances for wolves to survive and thrive in the region.

Multiple Populations: Survival of this rarest wolf is also threatened by having a single small population currently in the wild.  To safely recover, Mexican gray wolves will need to live in several core populations.  Without additional populations, the wolves are at risk of extinction from disasters like wildfire or disease. 

Recovery Plan: The Mexican wolf recovery plan has not been updated since 1982. An updated, scientifically sound recovery plan will answer the question of how many wolves are needed and where, before the Mexican gray wolf can be considered recovered and be removed from the endangered species list.  Currently, the program is operating with a 31-year-old roadmap.

 

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Contact: Alexander Slippen, aslippen@defenders.org, (202) 772-3226

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.organd follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

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